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Saturday, 12 May, 2001, 07:29 GMT 08:29 UK
Text me a soap
Dot Cotton
So who is your favourite character?
By BBC News Online technology correspondent Mark Ward

You can get sports updates, bank balances and stock prices via the short message service (SMS) on your mobile phone and soon you will be able to get a soap opera, too.

The soap will be based around the lives, loves, triumphs and disasters of a group of eight characters. Each episode will stretch across three SMS messages.

The idea is already on trial in Germany and its inventors are now talking to British TV companies to develop the soap and the update service further.

Leading the way with this new form of episodic entertainment is technology company Materna, which has signed a deal with German mobile phone firm E-Plus

The drama, simply called SMS-Soap, revolves around the lives of eight individuals - called Laura, Franziska, Judith, Inka, Tim, Mirko, Jan, and Ulf - who all work at an advertising agency owned by Tim.

Michael Ohajuru, a spokesman for Materna, said three messages were needed for each episode because the 160-character limit of one SMS message would not allow the story to develop enough. "The only downside of SMS is its brevity," he said.

Mr Ohajuru added that many mobile phone networks allowed up to three messages to be linked together as a single "event" for which the customer was charged the price of only one message.

The SMS-Soap will be free until the end of May when E-Plus will start charging 39 pfennigs (12p) for each episode. A weekly summary of events in the soap will be posted on the E-Plus website every Sunday.

Mr Ohajuru said Materna was currently negotiating with the makers of soaps in the UK and expected a similar service to launch in Britain soon.

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See also:

31 Dec 99 | Wales
Welsh pub soap goes online
05 Apr 01 | UK
In a lather over soaps
04 Sep 00 | Entertainment
Daily soap hits internet
06 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
A small slice of design
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